Can You Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle? The Untold Truth


With all of the conflicting health and fitness advice floating around on the internet, it can be hard to determine how to shape your training goals.

You might want to lose fat, or build muscle, or even do both at the same time – but is this even possible?

The good news is, it’s possible to work towards weight loss goals and muscle-building goals at the same time. The bad news is that it’s not easy. Following the right diet and exercise regime is crucial if you are to build muscle while cutting fat.

Sometimes working out is presented in black and white terms. 

Either you’re working hard to shed pounds and lose weight, or you’re trying to put on muscle mass and add definition to your muscles.

Yet, for many people this black and white view is frustrating, since they would prefer to lose weight without losing their existing muscles or build muscle as they are shedding pounds of fat.

For these people, fortunately, there is a solution.

While it might sound too good to be true – like you can have your cake and eat it – you can indeed make progress towards the two very different fitness goals at the same time.

In this guide, we’ll show you how.

Be Careful with Calories

It’s common knowledge that the best – and only – way to lose weight fast is to cut back on the amount of calories you consume.

So if for example you would normally eat 2,000 calories a day and you scale down to 1,500 calories a day, you’re going to lose weight.

It’s as simple as that.

Of course there are other factors to consider which influence the rate at which you lose weight, such as the foods you get the calories from and the exercise you do, but for now all we need to know is that a caloric deficit is necessary for weight loss.

With that in mind, you can’t possibly hope to lose weight while loading on extra calories.

This is the problem most people encounter when trying to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, since it seems like a tug of war between needing a lot of calories versus not a lot of calories.

One factor not a lot of people talk about though is that a surefire way to lose both fat and muscle is to restrict your calories without exercise.

This means that if you exercise sufficiently as you cut back on calories, you should in theory at least be able to hold onto your current level of muscle mass.

Another common issue that arises is the speed at which people attempt to achieve their fitness goals. 

Rome wasn’t a built in a day – so you shouldn’t expect your body to be.

Instead, it’s best to take a slow approach, so as not to shock the body. Think tortoise, not hare. Slowly cut back on your calories so you can average a pound or so of weight loss a week, rather than trying to shed it all at once as if you’re a snake trying to shed its skin.

Hit the Gym

Ok so now we’ve established that a slow approach to reducing calories alongside an exercise program is essential for losing weight not muscle, how do you make sure that your muscles get the attention they deserve?

Well, you’re going to need to hit the gym regularly.

Doing cardio to burn fat and keep muscle is one of the best things you can do, but it’s not the only effective form of exercise.

It’s strongly recommended that you commit to a consistent strength training program if you are to maintain muscle while losing weight.

Whether that’s weightlifting or simply bodyweight exercises, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you don’t let too much time pass without giving your muscles something to think about. If you do, and you’re still operating at a caloric deficit, you might find that your muscles start to disappear along with the fat.

Needeless to say, if you’re new to strength training start slow.

What that looks like for different people will depend.

Generally speaking though, you want to aim for 2-3 days of working out at least every week.

You also need to ensure you get enough rest though, since overtraining is a real thing and will hinder your strength goals.

If you go in expecting to complete 5-6 workouts a week and don’t leave much time for rest, then you’ll be susceptible to burn out which could throw you off completely. 

A good rule of thumb is to give the muscles at least 24 hours to recover. So, if you work your biceps on Monday, don’t return to them until at least Wednesday.

You also need to up your protein intake to fuel muscle growth. Many fitness experts recommend that you should aim to eat 0.8g protein for every 1lb of fat.

Eat Healthy

While this may sound obvious, you aren’t going to get the body of your dreams eating chocolate and donuts.

The best way to cut without losing muscle is to eat right.

Sure, it doesn’t seem like the Rock adheres to this advice when he posts videos of his insane cheat meals on Instagram, but you don’t get to see how he eats during the week.

A cheat meal is one thing, eating only unhealthy foods is another thing altogether, and it won’t help you with your fitness goals.

One of the main reasons to eat healthy is that it will give your body everything it needs to thrive, which will help you power through your workouts and give you energy throughout the day.

With healthy foods like fruit and veg, you also aren’t as likely to succumb to sugar cravings that can sometimes be a result of eating too many sugary foods. That makes it easier to stick to a healthy eating plan. Healthy eating begets more healthy eating, so if you can go through the discomfort of eating clean in the beginning you will find that it’s much easier to stick to over time.

Examples of some of the best carbohydrates to eat include sweet potatoes, leafy vegetables and oatmeal. As for protein, you should eat everything from salmon and tuna to chicken and steak to work towards your dream body.

Frequently Asked Questions About Losing Fat

How much fat can you lose in a week without losing muscle?

It’s possible to lose as much as one or two pounds per week without compromising your muscle gains.

If you try to be too ambitious with your weight loss regime, eliminating too many calories from your diet, then your muscles will take a hit too.

As such, patience is key when it comes to succeeding with hybrid weight loss and muscle gain goals.

Do you always lose muscle when losing weight?

Not necessarily, it’s possible to both lose weight and build muscle at the same time with the right nutrition and exercise routine.

The worst thing you can do in this case is significantly cut back on your caloric intake, since this is what will have the muscle on your body deteriorate quicker than anything else.

Instead, you need to strike a balance between calories consumed and the amount of exercise done, so you can make progress towards both goals.

What are the signs of muscle growth?

If you want to commit to a healthy lifestyle that ensures you can both build muscle and lose weight, you’ll need to know what the key signs of muscle growth are.

You can tell that you’re building muscle if, for instance, your clothes that once fit you perfectly now feel tight around the shoulders or chest.

Another big sign is that you have more vascularity, especially in your arms. This means the veins are more prominent.

A Final Word From Energetic Lifestyle

It is perfectly possible to both lose fat and build muscle, but nobody said it would be easy.

To pull it off, you’ll need to commit to a healthy lifestyle that doesn’t put you at a significant caloric deficit and make sure you’re putting in the hours at the gym to give your muscles a chance to grow.

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Energetic Lifestyle Team

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